Hurricane “Ida” gains strength and approaches the US Gulf Coast

Ean extremely dangerous hurricane approaching the US Gulf Coast. The authorities in the state of Louisiana are warning of severe damage and flooding. Governor John Bel Edwards activated the National Guard with up to 5,000 soldiers and urged everyone to get to safety before the storm arrived. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned that the state and also the city of New Orleans would face heavy rain, a “life-threatening storm surge”, catastrophic gusts of wind and long-lasting power outages.

Early on Sunday morning (local time), “Ida” continued to gain strength over the sea. As the NHC announced, the storm has developed into a “strong hurricane”. The experts reported estimated wind speeds of up to 215 kilometers per hour. This corresponds to category four out of five.

One of the strongest storms since 1850

According to the forecasts, “Ida” will hit land in Louisiana on Sunday. That would be exactly 16 years to the day after the arrival of the devastating hurricane “Katrina”, which caused catastrophic damage and floods in and around New Orleans. Around 1,800 people were killed at that time. Since then, billions have been invested in flood protection in the region.


Upon arrival in Louisiana, “Ida” could even be a force four hurricane, according to the information. Such a cyclone brings wind speeds of more than 209 kilometers per hour with it and usually triggers “catastrophic destruction”.

Governor Edwards warned on Saturday that “Ida” would be one of the strongest storms since 1850 when it hits Louisiana. All citizens should be in a safe place by evening (local time). The first storms can be expected from Sunday morning.

US President Joe Biden was briefed on Saturday by the Fema civil protection agency about the storm. Fema has already brought 500 emergency services as well as 1.6 million liters of drinking water, a million meals and generators to the region, the White House said. The coast guard brought 18 helicopters and numerous boats into position for rescue operations. New Orleans Airport canceled all scheduled flights for Sunday. Local public transport in the city was stopped on Saturday evening.


Residents on the Louisiana border are trying to get into Texas before the storm hits land.
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Image: Reuters

“Hurricane Ida poses a direct threat to the people of New Orleans,” warned Mayor LaToya Cantrell. Because of the rapidly approaching storm, there was no time to order a compulsory evacuation of the entire city. She therefore only ordered the evacuation of particularly endangered areas that lie outside the dams. In addition to direct storm damage, the jazz metropolis also fears flooding from heavy rain and storm surges. New Orleans is almost entirely surrounded by water – Lake Pontchartrain to the north, Lake Borgne to the east, and the wetlands along the Mississippi Estuary to the south.

Long queues form at the New Orleans airport on Saturday as local residents tried to leave the city before the storm.


Long queues form at the New Orleans airport on Saturday as local residents tried to leave the city before the storm.
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Image: AFP

On parts of the Louisiana coast, west of New Orleans, a “life-threatening” storm surge of up to 4.5 meters in height can be expected, the NHC warned. At Lake Borgne a good three meters can be expected, at Lake Pontchartrain a good two meters. Flood warnings also applied to the west of the neighboring state of Mississippi.

Corona patients make it difficult to evacuate clinics

Governor Edwards said coastal hospitals could not be evacuated despite the hurricane because there were too many corona patients. Currently, 2,450 patients are being treated for Covid-19 in the state with 4.6 million inhabitants, he said. There is no longer any capacity in Louisiana and the neighboring states to accept additional patients. For the facilities, despite generators, long-lasting power outages as a result of the hurricane are a great danger. The state has mobilized around 10,000 workers to quickly restore power, said Edwards. Louisiana and the neighboring states are in the midst of a dramatic corona wave.

“Ida” should first weaken overland and move northeast to Mississippi and Tennessee on Monday. The cyclone hit western Cuba as a level one hurricane on Friday. According to reports from the state media, “Ida” caused power outages and damage there.

Meanwhile, in the Pacific, Hurricane “Nora” struck land in Mexico, causing flooding and damage. With wind speeds of up to 140 kilometers per hour, it moved over the coast of the state of Jalisco. Some communities had previously been evacuated. The NHC predicted heavy rain for more than 1,500 kilometers of Mexico’s west coast and the Baja California peninsula. This will likely cause life-threatening flash floods and landslides. According to the prognosis, “Nora” should continue to move north parallel to the coast across the Gulf of California in the coming days, initially as a level one hurricane.

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